Have you ever heard of the ‘Blue Zones’? Blue Zones is a term applied to areas and populations of the world where people live quantifiably longer lives. The concept grew out of research conducted by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, who highlighted the Nuoro province in Sardinia as the area with most male centenarians. In Blue Zone areas, people reach the age of 100 at rates that are significantly greater than in the Unites States. Other hotspots are Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Ikaria in Greece and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California.
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Educator and author Dan Buettner has conducted some research into the longevity found in Blue Zone areas, which has culminated in a ‘Blue Zones’ website. From his work we now know that people living in these areas share a number of characteristics, such as the types of food they eat, and he has called these shared characteristics the “Power 9”.When Buettner and his team applied the principles of the Power 9 to a small population in the US, after one year, participants added approximately 3 years to their average lifespan.
Read on to discover the eating habits of these longest living people on the planet: diet tips from some of the world’s centenarians.
1. Go Veggie
Blue Zone dwellers are predominantly vegetarian, and Buettner suggests that to follow their diet, the overwhelming majority (95%) of your food intake should be vegetables: leafy greens, beans and whole grains are best.
2. Keep It Lean With The Meat
Blue Zone people rarely eat meat. Treat meat as an accompaniment, rather than a main meal, and favour chicken, pork or lamb. Try not to eat meat more than twice a week, Buettner suggests.
3. Go Fish
Blue Zone dwellers eat a small amount of fish daily. Studies have shown that people who eat a plant-based diet with a small amount of fish each day tend to live longer than those who don’t. Recommended are fish that have not been exposed to high concentrations of mercury or other chemicals – foods such as sardines, anchovies and cod.
4. Limit Dairy
Blue Zoners get their calcium from plants (for example cooked Kale), rather than cows’ milk, according to Buettner. However, although people living in the Blue Zones limit dairy, they do eat sheep and goat products such as cheese and yoghurts.
5. 3 Eggs Should Crack It
If eggs don’t feature much in your diet, it’s time to increase your intake. People in Blue Zones eat one egg at a time, and usually no more than three in a week.
6. Beans Mean a Healthy Diet
Black beans, white beans, soya beans, green beans: beans should be a staple of your diet. Beans are packed with protein and complex carbohydrates, contain very little fat and are high in fibre. Half a cup of cooked beans every day will give you all the nutrients you need, says Buettner.
7. Make Whole Grains Your Bread and Butter
Breads that are high in fibre and with 100% wholegrains are the staple of Blue Zone areas. Wheat, rye and barley breads are good choices, as is sourdough bread.
8. Hold The Sugar
Like it or lump it, sugar is no good for us, though we are drawn to this sweet poison like bees to honey (if you’re not convinced watch this YouTube clip, viewed over 5 million times). Blue Zoners, our longevity role models, consume very little sugar, if any, and tend to use honey in tea.
9. Go Nuts
Blue Zone dwellers eat around a couple of handfuls of nuts a day. Other studies have found that nuts have a beneficial effect on cholesterol and nut eaters have a lower mortality than those who don’t eat nuts.
10. Eat Foods ‘Whole’
Don’t eat just the egg white; eat the whole egg. Eat the whole fruit, including the pulp. Try to avoid eating foods that have a “long list of ingredients”, says Buettner.
11. Keep Hydrated
The Adventists (a demographic that boasts a number of centenarians) suggest drinking at least seven glasses of water a day based on studies which show that increasing fluid intake reduces the chances of a blood clot forming.
12. Drink Red Wine
Blue Zone dwellers enjoy up to three glasses of red wine daily. There have been several studies about the health benefits of red wine, including that it helps the body absorb plant-based antioxidants, making it perfect for largely vegetarian Blue Zone dwellers.
13. Drink Herbal Tea - Especially Green Tea
Green tea has a number of health benefits, such as reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, and Blue Zone dwellers drink lots of it as well as dandelion, wild sage and rosemary brews.
14. Get Your Caffeine Fix
Coffee drinkers can rejoice: Blue Zoners drink copious amounts of it. Coffee has been reported to have beneficial effects on diseases such as diabetes, amongst others.
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Most, if not all, of these tips have scientific backing, which makes them even more compelling. How much of your diet contains these foods?